GENEVA – It was the FIFA ethics investigation many hoped would remove Russia and Qatar as World Cup hosts.
But two years after disputed details of the so-called "Garcia Report" into the 2018-2022 World Cup bid campaigns were first revealed, it is still not close to being published.
Switzerland's federal prosecution office suggests it might take three more years before its investigation of alleged FIFA-linked money laundering is complete and the 430-page dossier can be published.
FIFA critics and presidential candidates have often demanded that the Garcia Report — read in its entirety by perhaps as few as seven authorized people — be released to help judge if the hosting contests were won fairly in a December 2010 vote of the soccer body's scandal-tainted executive committee.
Michael Garcia, the FIFA ethics prosecutor who led the investigation, himself asked for "appropriate" publication that would protect witnesses before he resigned to protest how his work was handled.
Still, the American lawyer's report was the basis of a criminal complaint by FIFA to Switzerland's federal prosecutors on Nov. 18, 2014 — and must stay sealed and confidential during that case.
The Swiss federal investigation of suspected criminal mismanagement and money laundering during the 11-nation bid campaigns might not be over when the next World Cup kicks off in June 2018 in Moscow.
"This type of criminal proceeding (is) time consuming and resource intense. Usually, respective proceedings take some three to five years," the office of Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber said in a statement to The Associated Press.
"As the report in question is to be seen as evidence in ongoing criminal proceedings, the OAG hardly sees any legally justifiable way the report (can be) published," the Swiss federal office said.
Lauber's team currently has 172 suspicious transactions which passed through Swiss banks to examine.
Adding to the Swiss workload, prosecutions of alleged corruption that spun off the original FIFA case are ongoing against former president Sepp Blatter, fired secretary general Jerome Valcke, and organizers of the 2006 World Cup including Germany great Franz Beckenbauer.
A further complication is that potential witnesses, including some FIFA voters six years ago, are scattered worldwide, have not returned to Switzerland and previously refused to answer Garcia's questions.
Garcia's ultimately short career at FIFA is defined by an investigation many hoped would lead to a re-run of the 2018-2022 hosting votes.
Appointed in July 2012 by an executive committee he would investigate, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York was given unlimited time and resources but limited evidence-gathering powers within a new FIFA Code of Ethics.
In September 2014, Garcia submitted his 350-page investigation into seven bid candidates, plus a further 80 pages of files on American and Russian bids which were investigated by his deputy, Cornel Borbely.
On Nov. 13, 2014, FIFA published a 42-page summary by chief ethics judge Joachim Eckert. It left Garcia furious.
Eckert wrote that while he saw "certain occurrences that were suited to impair the integrity" of the vote, they were limited in scope. The German judge advised Blatter's executive committee to let the results stand.
Within hours, Garcia hit out at "numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of facts and conclusions." He challenged Eckert's summary at the FIFA appeals committee.
Garcia resigned a month later after FIFA dismissed his appeal.
"The Report identified serious and wide-ranging issues with the bidding and selection process," Garcia wrote in a resignation statement, citing his lost confidence in Eckert's independence and Blatter's leadership.
Garcia has not commented since, and declined comment to the AP for this article.
As Garcia and Eckert very publicly fell out, FIFA filed the Swiss criminal complaint and further legal opinions were sought which supported Eckert's position. Blatter later invited Eckert to publish a redacted report when any subsequent ethics cases were complete.
At least two known cases — involving former FIFA vice president Chung Mong-joon and former bid inspector Harold Mayne-Nicholls — are still active, FIFA told the AP in a recent statement. Both men got reduced ethics ban at the FIFA appeals panel and could go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
"Due to ongoing ethics proceedings and the possibility that further cases might be opened in the future, a publication of the 'Garcia Report' is not possible at the moment," Eckert's office said in a statement.
It is Lauber, however, who is set to shape the legacy of the multi-million dollar Garcia investigation.
Garcia himself wrote, in summary by Eckert, about the limitations of his work.
"To assume, e.g., that envelopes full of cash are given in exchange for votes on a FIFA World Cup host is naive," the 42-page summary stated. "Corruption, also in general business not linked to football, is executed in much more sophisticated ways, including money transfers through several different accounts of consultants, trusts, offshore companies, etc."
Lauber's federal prosecutors have the mandate to explore those channels within a criminal case that he formally opened in 2015 — on March 10, Blatter's birthday.